A white, hot column of flame firing out of a rocket engine, backdropped by white clouds and a blue sky, looks like a work of art in this photo from the private company Firefly Space Systems.
This luminous image was posted to the company's Twitter account on June 10, and shows a single engine — one of 12 that will be included on the completed Firefly Alpha aerospike rocket. The aerospike design uses engine nozzles with a slightly different shape compared to the bell-shaped nozzles seen on many other rocket engines.
Firefly is a company aiming to build "low-cost, high-performance space launch capability for the underserved small satellite market," according to the company's website. The company's first launch with its Firefly Alpha vehicle is scheduled for March 2018. That will be the first of four launches contracted by NASA.
In the picture, the engine is attached to the "live ring," which will hold all 12 engines when the rocket is fully constructed. (Many rocket designs have multiple engines, such as SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, which has nine engines.)
The aerospike engine design has been around since the 1960s, a representative for Firefly told Space.com via email, but the company believes it "will have the first aerospike engine in production when Firefly Alpha becomes operational in early 2018," he said.